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Bacterial Infection May Boost SIDS Risk
Date:5/29/2008

udden death could not be explained than from infants whose deaths were explained by non-infectious causes. In particular, S. aureus ("staph") and E. coli had a greater presence in unexplained deaths than in those explained by non-infectious causes.

As an accompanying editorial pointed out, the number of SIDS cases peaks at 8 weeks to 10 weeks of age. That's a time-frame coinciding with blood concentrations of immunoglobulin that protect newborns against bacterial infections.

"This is just at the point that antibodies that go across the placenta -- from mom to baby -- to protect them are starting to disappear, and babies haven't made a lot of their own antibodies yet," noted Dr. Cheryl Cipriani, an associate professor of pediatrics at Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine and a neonatologist with Scott & White. "This is a particular point in time where babies seem to be vulnerable," she said.

Also, both S. aureus and E. coli are bacteria that make toxins, Cipriani explained, "and a toxin might not necessarily cause all the histological changes that you see with infections."

"This is another building block in our knowledge about these kinds of deaths, but association doesn't mean cause," Cipriani cautioned. "But it's a large enough group of babies where you think the findings need to be paid attention to."

Until precise causes for SIDS are uncovered, parents should be aware that putting infants to sleep on their back ("Back to Sleep") reduces the risk of SIDS by 40 percent to 60 percent, Greenberg said. Avoiding your child's exposure to cigarette smoke also reduces this risk.

Using a pacifier might also lower risk, but this is controversial, Greenberg added.

More information

There's more on SIDS at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.


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